Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Archuleta ‘Violent Crimes Prosecutor’ Designation Upheld
Warren to Be Listed as ‘Violent Crimes Counsel,’ Perez as ‘Supervising Gang Prosecutor’
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta will be designated as a “Violent Crimes Prosecutor” on the June 7 primary election for Los Angeles Superior Court, as she requested, a Superior Court judge ruled yesterday.
Judge Mary Strobel denied a petition by one of her opponents, Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner, for a writ of mandate that would have barred Archuleta from using the title. The two, along with Deputy District Attorney Paul Kim and civil litigator Jonathan Alexan Malek, are vying for an open seat.
Schreiner argued that the designation was misleading, in light of Archuleta’s assignment to the White Collar Crimes Division. But Strobel, in her tentative decision, credited a declaration in which the prosecutor said she spent the vast majority of her time last year and this year working on violent crime cases.
Those include a complex attempted murder case that she brought with her from the Family Violence Division, to which she was previously assigned, along with a number of post-conviction matters.
Archuleta’s attorney, Fred Woocher, said the judge adopted the tentative decision at the end of the hearing, and reached the correct result.
“Just because she’s in a particular section doesn’t mean that’s all that she does,” Woocher told the MetNews. Schreiner’s attorney, Stuart Leviton, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Under the Elections Code, a ballot designation for persons not holding office is to consist of up to three words describing the candidate’s “principal professions, vocations, or occupations” within the past year, and the designation must be barred if it is misleading.
Strobel explained in her ruling that under state regulations, “principal” is defined to mean that the candidate devotes “substantial…time and effort” to the activity, which need only be “one of” the person’s primary professions, vocations, or occupations.
“The designation ‘Violent Crimes Prosecutor’ fairly describes one of Archuleta’s ‘primary, main or leading’ professional endeavors both currently and for the calendar year preceding the filing of her nomination documents,” the judge wrote. “Therefore, that designation is not false or misleading.”
‘Violent Crimes Counsel’
In other news, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant tentatively ruled that Deputy Public Defender Tami L. Warren may be listed on the ballot as “Violent Crimes Counsel,” following rejection of the previously submitted alternatives “Court Appointed Counsel” and “Appointed Trial Counsel.”
Warren is challenging Superior Court Judge Kathryn Ann Solorzano, whose counsel Brentford Ferreira argued that the defense lawyer was seeking to mislead voters into thinking she was a prosecutor.
Ferreira argued that the violent-crimes reference is also inaccurate, because most of the cases handled by Warren—until recently a line deputy in Solorzano’s courtroom—were drug and property matters. Warren contends that 85 percent of her time is consumed with violent crimes cases.
Chalfant said the designation is allowable because the amount of time she spends on violent crimes cases is “substantial…and sufficient to constitute a primary endeavor.”
Nor is the designation misleading, he said, because “’Counsel’ is a neutral term not exclusively associated with prosecution.” Warren has the right to use a general description of her job, rather than a more specific one, the judge said.
‘Supervising Criminal Prosecutor’
Chalfant also tentatively ruled that Deputy District Attorney Javier Perez will be listed on the ballot as a “Supervising Criminal Prosecutor,” and not, as he sought, as a “Supervising Gang Prosecutor” or “Lead Criminal Prosecutor.” He agreed with Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend that those designations are inaccurate and/or misleading.
Townsend and Perez are candidates for an open seat, along with business litigator Aaron J. Weissman and Deputy District Attorney Hubert S. Yun.
Chalfant noted that Perez, the deputy-in-charge of the West Covina office, devotes himself to administrative duties and hasn’t tried a case in nearly two decades. He is not part of the Hardcore Gang Division, and would rarely have responsibility for gang cases, the judge said.
The office, he acknowledged, does prosecute gang members, often for felonies, but the designation is misleading and should not have accepted by the registrar of voters, he said.
“The use of the term ‘gang prosecutor’ has a special meaning to voters, and the evidence does not show that Perez’s principal occupation is to supervise gang cases,” Chalfant wrote.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company